MOSCOW, Russia -- Actor Cesar Montano denied Saturday that the government shouldered his fare and accommodations in Russia during President Rodrigo Duterte's weeklong visit to Moscow.
Montano, also a former Tourism Promotions Board chief operating officer, defended himself from accusations that he and other celebrity supporters of the Duterte administration hitched a free vacation to Moscow.
“Wala po kaming bayad, hindi po kami binayaran ng gobyerno," he said.
(We weren't paid by the government.)
"Kusang loob po kaming pumunta dito para mapaligaya kayo,” Montano told thousands of Filipino migrant workers in Moscow during an audience President Duterte Saturday night.
(We came here on our own to make you happy.)
An avid Duterte supporter, Montano issued the remark after he and other celebrities received flak on social media for joining President Duterte's trip to Moscow, since they are not part of the official Philippine delegation.
During President Duterte's meeting with the Filipino community in Russia, Montano was joined by fellow action star Philip Salvador, and comedan Moymoy Palaboy in entertaining the crowd.
Malacañang earlier denied that the government spent for celebrity supporters of the President in Moscow.
"The government did not spend for their fare and hotel accommodations," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
“With regard to the showbiz people who are here, as far as I know, when they entertain the Filipino community while waiting for the arrival of the President, they are not paid. They have been doing that during the presidential campaign. They just happen to be genuine and rabid fans of [President Duterte]," he added.
EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this story falsely reported that Cesar Montano was an official of TIEZA. Our apologies.